If your first thought about using books to learn a language is that you’ll be bored, we really hope we can change your mind! As both language lovers and book lovers, we can’t think of a better thing than to combine the two. Here are some of our suggestions for the best books to help you learn Italian, both interesting reads and more practical ones.
The Berlitz Italian-English Dictionary is a must-have for anyone learning Italian. With 25,000 word translations that come with pronunciation guides, this dictionary is great to have to hand whatever your Italian level. There are vocabulary lists for a range of subjects covering everything from computing to the environment. If you are looking for a bit of basic language, then there is a section on conversational phrases that will help you out. There is even a mini grammar section for quick reference on things like irregular verbs. This is a perfect pocket dictionary that’s simple to use and doesn’t weigh a ton!
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For a grammar guide, you really can’t go wrong with Living Language Italian, Complete Edition. This is a multimedia guide, so you will have both a book and online activities to work through. You can follow the book from cover to cover and in doing so will, with practice, progress from beginner to more advanced levels quickly. If you prefer to go work on a particular grammar point, then there are 46 comprehension activities covering all aspects of Italian grammar to help. In addition to this the book gives you a quick reference grammar summary guide, cultural notes, and even guidance on pronunciation! If you are starting out with Italian, Living Language Italian is a great book for you.
Montedidio/God’s Mountain, Erri De Luca
On to the fun reads! Montedidio, by Erri De Luca, you may already know for its English translation as God’s Mountain. This story is set in Naples, told through the eyes of an unnamed narrator, as he goes about his life while worrying about his mother’s deteriorating health. We meet a number of characters along the way, from his upstairs neighbor who awakens his sexual experiences, to a printer, and a cobbler, who both have very different views and experiences of life. Montedidio is a charming story that will really draw you in from the very beginning. Keep a dictionary to hand if this is your first time reading a novel in Italian, and don’t blame us if you run out of pages too quickly! Montedidio is a real page-turner that we are sure you’ll enjoy.
The Prague Cemetery, Umberto Eco
The Prague Cemetery by Umberto Eco is an intriguing read. We follow the life of Simone Simonini in 1830 Turin, whose skill at forgery brings him to the attention of the Piedmont Government. The story cuts back and forth both through entries in Simonini’s diary and from his memories, though not in a way that makes it difficult to follow. This is a work of fiction that weaves its story alongside actual history, bringing to light events in our past from an interesting, alternative perspective. The Prague Cemetery has also been translated into English, so if you’ve read the book already you will know what to expect; the language used will definitely require you to refer to a dictionary from time to time!
Inspector Montalbano, Andrea Camilleri
Our final choice of Italian reads is a beloved story by many in Italy. If detective stories are your thing, then reading the Inspector Montalbano series by Andrea Camilleri is going to be a great way to help you learn Italian! The series follows the life and work of Inspector Montalbano in Sicily. There are crimes, passions, humorous adventures, as well as a lot of social commentary along the way as the stories unfold. The simple style of the language in these books is such that you will work through them all in next to no time. Which means even if you are new to Italian novels, to begin with, you’ll be speeding through, confident and wanting more of Montalbano’s adventures by the end! And as if that isn’t enough Italian, the books were made into a very popular Italian TV series of the same name. Happy reading (and watching)!
Whichever books you choose to begin your Italian adventures, we wish you luck!